Saturday, February 25, 2006
A Test for DeterminismToday I will take a short break from my efforts to save the world from certain destruction, and instead present a way to find out if the universe is ruled by determinism or not. Determinism, as all you Calvinists know, is the theory that the universe has a pre-programed fate--allegedly programmed by God--and that we are merely actors in God's play. The opposing theory, known as "free will," turns the play into something closer to "Curb Your Enthusiasm," where we are actors who have the freedom to move about and say things as they wish. With Free Will, there is no script, and no one knows the outcome. To settle this millenia-long battle once and for all, I have designed a scientific test that will--with some degree of statistical certainty--prove or disprove if Determinism is guiding the future of the universe. It doesn't prove Free Will, per se, but could disprove Determinism. (To the left is an artist's conception of what the SLB might look like.) First (and here's the part that's not yet possible), you have to devise a little machine I call the "Special Little Box," or SLB. The SLB does not have to look special. In fact it looks boring. It's a little box with a button, and a little red light. However, here's how the box works: When you push the button, it sends a single atomic particle to a receptor, which lights the little red light. The only complicated part, is that the particle moves five seconds into the past before hitting the receptor. So essentially, the little red light will go on 5 seconds before you push the button. No other force in the universe can make the light go one other than the push of the button on the SLB, and that the light goes on exactly always 5 seconds before the button is pushed. Simple enough? OK, let's go. You hire some volunteers who do not know how the SLB works. I recommend hiring poor college students who are smart enough to follow basic instructions, but poor enough to volunteer for this exercise for a small fee, or even just cookies and punch. Put them in a room with the SLB, and give them instructions. "Push the button exactly five seconds after the light goes on." Then, you and your friends should go into the little observation room behind the one-way mirror, and jot down your observations. This part of the test probably won't prove anything yet, but it's good for a few laughs. It will amuse you that these dumb college students are able to push the button *exactly* five seconds after the light goes on. Not 4.7 seconds, not 5.2 seconds, but exactly 5 seconds. Weird, huh? Now, if one of the volunteers is either extremely stupid or extremely clever, the volunteers should always push the button 5 seconds after the light goes on. If an extremely stupid person is too dull-witted to push the button, or if an extremely clever person decides to rebel against the test, then you have already disproven the theory of determinism, and proven that the universe is ruled by either extremely clever or extremely stupid people. (A more complicated theory might be that there are a myriad of "alternative universes" going on at all times, but I'll discuss that some other time maybe.) If this first part of the test does not achieve any surprising results, then it's time to move onto the true test of determinism. This time, place a scientist in the room who understands the nature of the test, and how the SLB works. He should be blindfolded. Or, better yet, to ensure 100% infallability of this test, he should volunteer to have his eyes gouged out to guarantee certainty that he cannot see the whether the little red light is on or not. Then tell him to push the button at random every once in awhile. If this part of the test achieves no surprising results, you can move on to the next portion with the joyful confidence that the universe is not guided by random fate. Then, place a scientist who still has both his eyes, and who understands the nature of the test. Tell him to try and push the button THIRTY seconds after the light goes on. Make sure this scientist is clever enough to easily tell the difference between Five and Thirty seconds. This is the portion of the test that will truly determine whether the fate of the universe is pre-determined or not. If the scientist mistakes thirty seconds for five seconds every time, then the universe is pre-determined. If five seconds elapses and the scientist does not push the button, then Determinism is not true, or it is true but can be over-ruled by calculated rebellion. You may now go about your business freely.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
1.6 BillionThat's how much Bush has spent on Public Relations since 2003. Hey ... it costs a lot to hide the facts: - Port Security sold to the people most interested: Saudis - Iraq on the brink of full-scale civil war. Nothing funny there. - Cheney hunting hand-raised quail too stupid to know that humans are bad. Luckily, it turns out okay for the quails. - US asked to close Gitmo. The critics weren't allowed to interview the detainees because "they are trained to lie." Heh. - Wire-tapping. 'Nuff said. A Bush critic's job is never done. Ever.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Bush LiesI just heard a recording of the following words from George Bush--delivered in a speech to a university on April 20, 2004: "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." I wish I had an MP3 download of this quote. It has more impact to hear the words coming straight from the man who signed the Presidential Order to do exactly the opposite.
High-Five to the Person Who Asked This Question ...... at a press conference yesterday. The press conference topic was the new Global Internet Freedom Task Force that's being formed to combat internet censorship and oppression in countries like China. UNDER SECRETARY SHINER: Last question? QUESTION: Is access a bigger problem than privacy? I mean, are there many countries in which the authorities follow the internet traffic, e-mail traffic, without court warrants? UNDER SECRETARY SHINER: Well, certainly censorship is a very old practice and we've seen it manifest throughout history on many different levels, and that's not new to the internet and it's a challenge that we face with the internet and elsewhere. The privacy piece certainly has new dimensions as we look at technology and the ability of technology to connect people, and so I would say that, you know, some of the unique policy challenges that we face are certainly in that area and that will be a major focus of our discussions. MR. CASEY: Thanks, everyone. Appreciate you coming today.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
The Global Internet Freedom ActIn my spare time, I always love to read upcoming legislation. On Feb. 14, the Global Internet Freedom Act was submitted to the House. Here's a particularly interesting section: (6) Intergovernmental, nongovernmental, and media organizations have reported the widespread and increasing pattern by repressive foreign governments of Internet jamming, including jamming, censoring, blocking, monitoring, and restricting Internet access and content by using technologies such as firewalls, filters, and `black boxes'. Such interference with individual activity on the Internet includes surveillance of e-mail messages, message boards, and the use of particular words, `stealth blocking' individuals from visiting particular websites, the development of `black lists' of users who seek to visit these websites, and the complete denial of access to the Internet. While this law is intended to apply to other countries, this will make President Bush's warrantless e-mail reading illegal. Oh wait a minute. It already was illegal.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Cheney Can't Satiate his Thirst For BloodCheney gently strokes the smooth barrel of his gift from the NRA. "My preciousssss." The Blogosphere is brimming with humor since Cheney accidentally shot his hunting companion yesterday. Luckily the guy is fine, otherwise the humor would have to wait about 2 or 3 months. In other news, Howard Dean calls for Cheney to resign if he ordered the CIA leak.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
The HouseThe Curmudgeon in Training came over today for bit of lunch and conversation. My son Ryan said that he was reading a biography of Albert Einstein for class. Me: Yeah, I Albert was a brilliant guy. All except for that bit about how God doesn't play dice with the universe. The Curmudgeon: What do you mean? Me: I think God does play dice with the universe The Curmudgeon: (thinks) Yeah, and God is the house. Me; Right. The house always wins.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Some Things Never ChangeI simply had to recount this excerpt from an excellent book I'm reading. "The Code Book," which is basically a history of cryptography (one of my interests). It's by Simon Singh. There is a long section about Charles Babbage, a famous inventor who was also influential. This short blurb on his biography is included: ...toward the end of his life he began a campaign to get rid of the organ grinders and street musicians who roamed London. He complained that the music "not infrequently gives rise to a dance by little ragged urchins, and sometimes half-intoxicted men, who occasionally accompany the noise with their own discordant voices. Another class who are great supporters of street music consists of ladies of elastic virtue and cosmopolitan tendencies to whom it affords a decent excuse for displaying their fascinations at their open windows." Unfortunately for Babbage, the musicians fought back by gathering in large groups around his house and playing as loud as possible.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
There. Someone Finally Said ItPaul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, has finally come right out and said why people are upset over Bush's spying. "...ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying, thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif."
Monday, February 06, 2006
Strange, but TrueI just read this story, and am absolutely amazed. The actual news is the "happy ending" of a woman who just received a face transplant. She looks semi-normal now, which is good. The amazing part of the story is what happened to her. She was depressed, took sleeping pills, and while she was unconscious, her dog ate her face off. Bad dog! She awoke and couldn't figure out why she couldn't keep a cigarette in her mouth. Then she looked in the mirror ... For you dog-lovers out there who find it incredibly cute how your dog licks your face while you're asleep ... now you know what's really going on. But this story reminds me of another real-life story that was the subject of my last attempt at short fiction. It's the true story of a guy who tried to commit suicide with a shotgun, but basically didn't get off a good shot and managed to shoot his face off. At this point he rushes to find help for himself at a nearby gas station (putting the girl working there in a mental hospital after what she saw.) The Doctor's rebuilt his face, and the man now runs about his neighborhood scaring children by removing his mask and showing them the horror beneath. These are two very bizarre but very similar cases. Both have very bizarre and very similar results. Why is it, when suicidal people manage to literally lose their face, they suddenly regain their will to live? Wouldn't you think that, for this woman, having her dog eat her face off would give her merely addtional reasons to end it all? But instead of finding the nearest blunt object and bashing herself with it, she called 911 and sought help. Maybe the act of suicide is more linked to the desire to remove one's identity. Maybe suicide is the desire to end "who" we are instead of "what" we are. In both of these cases, once the face was gone (and the physical reminder of one's identity) so also is the desire to commit suicide gone.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The Furor Over CartoonsThese cartoons have caused the Muslim world to become enraged. Saudi Arabia and Syria have recalled their Denmark ambassadors. Gunmen held offices at the European Union in the Gaza Strip ... etc. Sigh. These cartoons were a silly and knowingly insulting stunt. Still, it has brought a point to head: the Islamic world can burn the American flag without reprisal, and so should the West be able to print cartoons about Mohammed. The free exchange of ideas should never be a threat to the truth, no? There is no peace without freedom of speech. Sometimes there is no peace with it either.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
State of the UnionI watched the speech last night. The president seemed very erudite, and said many, many wonderful things. Lots and lots of money to be spent on things people want, and a permanent tax cut to boot. There's only one hitch: Here's an account of one attendee of the SOTU address: (from Daily KOS) What Really Happened. by CindySheehan Wed Feb 01, 2006 at 01:19:44 AM PDT Dear Friends, As most of you have probably heard, I was arrested before the State of the Union Address tonight. I am speechless with fury at what happened and with grief over what we have lost in our country. CindySheehan's diary :: :: There have been lies from the police and distortions by the press. (Shocker) So this is what really happened: This afternoon at the People's State of the Union Address in DC where I was joined by Congresspersons Lynn Woolsey and John Conyers, Ann Wright, Malik Rahim and John Cavanagh, Lynn brought me a ticket to the State of the Union Address. At that time, I was wearing the shirt that said: 2245 Dead. How many more? After the PSOTU press conference, I was having second thoughts about going to the SOTU at the Capitol. I didn't feel comfortable going. I knew George Bush would say things that would hurt me and anger me and I knew that I couldn't disrupt the address because Lynn had given me the ticket and I didn't want to be disruptive out of respect for her. I, in fact, had given the ticket to John Bruhns who is in Iraq Veterans Against the War. However, Lynn's office had already called the media and everyone knew I was going to be there so I sucked it up and went. I got the ticket back from John, and I met one of Congresswoman Barbara Lee's staffers in the Longworth Congressional Office building and we went to the Capitol via the undergroud tunnel. I went through security once, then had to use the rest room and went through security again. My ticket was in the 5th gallery, front row, fourth seat in. The person who in a few minutes was to arrest me, helped me to my seat. I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled; "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight. The officer ran with me to the elevators yelling at everyone to move out of the way. When we got to the elevators, he cuffed me and took me outside to await a squad car. On the way out, someone behind me said, "That's Cindy Sheehan." At which point the officer who arrested me said: "Take these steps slowly." I said, "You didn't care about being careful when you were dragging me up the other steps." He said, "That's because you were protesting." Wow, I get hauled out of the People's House because I was, "Protesting." I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things...I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct." After I had my personal items inventoried and my fingers printed, a nice Sgt. came in and looked at my shirt and said, "2245, huh? I just got back from there." I told him that my son died there. That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights. I have lost the country that I love. Where did America go? I started crying in pain. What did Casey die for? What did the 2244 other brave young Americans die for? What are tens of thousands of them over there in harm's way for still? For this? I can't even wear a shrit that has the number of troops on it that George Bush and his arrogant and ignorant policies are responsible for killing. I wore the shirt to make a statement. The press knew I was going to be there and I thought every once in awhile they would show me and I would have the shirt on. I did not wear it to be disruptive, or I would have unzipped my jacket during George's speech. If I had any idea what happens to people who wear shirts that make the neocons uncomfortable that I would be arrested...maybe I would have, but I didn't. There have already been many wild stories out there. I have some lawyers looking into filing a First Amendment lawsuit against the government for what happened tonight. I will file it. It is time to take our freedoms and our country back. I don't want to live in a country that prohibits any person, whether he/she has paid the ulitmate price for that country, from wearing, saying, writing, or telephoning any negative statements about the government. That's why I am going to take my freedoms and liberties back. That's why I am not going to let Bushco take anything else away from me...or you. I am so appreciative of the couple of hundred of protesters who came to the jail while I was locked up to show their support....we have so much potential for good...there is so much good in so many people. Four hours and 2 jails after I was arrested, I was let out. Again, I am so upset and sore it is hard to think straight. Keep up the struggle...I promise you I will too. Love and peace soon, Cindy